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County to purchase flood forecast system

YAKIMA - Damage caused by flooding in the winter of 1996-97 has resulted in a new flood forecasting system that Yakima County hopes to have in place for the winter of 2006-07.

Yakima County commissioners on Tuesday approved a resolution to develop a flood and weather forecasting system.

"This isn't intended to compete or replace the forecasting systems already in place by national and media weather bureaus," said Vern Redifer, Director of Public Services for Yakima County.

The focus, rather, will be on monitoring flows and possible flooding of the Yakima River, as well as smaller streams which haven't been monitored.

"It's much more localized information," Redifer explained. "It doesn't duplicate any of the weather information out there, but what it does is pull information together for more specific flood forecasting."

The system won't tell you the temperature tomorrow, for example, but it will "be more specific on flooding than is presently used," according to Redifer.

Perhaps the most useful element is the monitoring of smaller streams, such as Toppenish Creek in the Lower Valley. "Much of the flooding in 96/97 was relative to streams," Redifer observed. "That becomes a safety issue to people and puts property in danger."

The flooding became a catalyst to create a more accurate flood prediction system. In the 10 years since the floods, the county has created a flood control zone and is prioritizing areas for flood forecasting.

Don Gatchalian, an Assistant Director of Public Services for Yakima County, said the $52,000 cost to design the system will be funded by the Flood Control Zone District.

Commissioners awarded the design contract to Seattle-based 3Tier Environmental Group. "We hope to have a product in place heading into the flood season of 2006-07," noted Redifer.

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